Tributes paid to Derry nun who died in Ecuador earthquake

The 7.8 magnitude tremor has claimed at least 272 lives

Ecuador, earthquake, survivors, Portoviejo, prisoners, rubble, President Rafael Correa, Derry, nun

Sr Clare Theresa Crockett | Image: Facebook/Home of the Mother

Tributes are being paid to a nun from Co Derry, who died in a mass earthquake in Ecuador at the weekend.

33-year-old Sr Clare Crockett was a member of the Home of the Mother Order, and taught children how to play the guitar.

She was based at a school in Playa Prieta and had been working in the South American country for a number of years.

The order says her body, along with those of two missing girls also associated with the group, have been found amongst the rubble.

The acting Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan expressed his condolences.

"I want to offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of Sister Clare Crockett who was killed in Ecuador on Saturday".

"The tributes paid to Sister Crockett since the weekend are a testament to the difference she made to the lives of the community she served".

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing consular assistance to her family.

“On behalf of the government and people of Ireland, I also want to extend our sincere condolences to the people of Ecuador on the tragic and heavy loss of life from Saturday’s devastating earthquake", Mr Flanagan added.

Officials from the department are liaising closely with authorities in Ecuador in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Newtownstewart parish priest Fr Roland Colhoun knew Sr Clare well.

A national emergency has been declared as rescuers scramble to find survivors following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which has claimed at least 272 lives.

President Rafael Correa landed back in the country late on Sunday night to oversee the relief effort after cutting short a trip to the Vatican.

Ecuadoreans have been warned that the number of fatalities is likely to rise as more than 2,000 people were injured following the strong quake and many others remain unaccounted for.

It has emerged that the forceful tremors allowed about 180 inmates to break out of a prison in the western town of Portoviejo, and dozens are yet to be captured.

But thousands of food packages and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits have been delivered from neighbouring countries, bringing warmth to the many thousands left homeless and with no choice but to sleep outside in the dark.

In a televised address to the nation, President Correa said: "Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard...this is the greatest tragedy in the last 67 years".

"There are signs of life in much of the rubble and that is the priority".

"We're not afraid. We're desperate"

In some of the worst-hit areas, 60% of houses were destroyed - leaving many families with nothing.

Families have expressed their frustration at being unable to rescue their loved ones from collapsed buildings.

Manuel Quijije said his older brother was trapped underneath a pile of twisted steel and concrete, adding: "We managed to see his arms and legs. They're his, they're buried, but the police kicked us out because they say there's a risk the rest of the building will collapse".

"We're not afraid. We're desperate. We want to pull out our family".

There have been at least 160 aftershocks since the earthquake struck, and according to the US Geological Survey, one of them had a magnitude of 5.6.

The authorities have warned Ecuadoreans to prepare for similarly strong aftershocks in the coming hours and days.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says anyone with concerns for Irish citizens can call +353-1-408-2000.

This is the seventh earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher to hit Ecuador since 1900 - and one in March 1987 killed approximately 1,000 people.